Hewlett-Woodmere and Lawrence districts face fiscal challenges

Schools struggle with budgets; state aid of little help


Despite the possibility of receiving an increase in state aid in 2013-14, the Hewlett-Woodmere and Lawrence school districts still face financial challenges created by the state tax levy cap.

Hewlett-Woodmere could receive $203,395 more from Albany, and Lawrence, $572,935. State aid projections are based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget.

Stephanie Gould, the Hewlett-Woodmere Board of Education president, said the increase is not enough. “Over the years, our taxes have been higher because we’re not getting our fair share of state aid,” she said. “We got more this year, but that still doesn’t mean we’re getting an astounding amount. And the truth is that Long Island gives a great deal of tax money to the state, and what we’re getting back isn’t commensurate with what we give.”

According to Dr. Peter Weber, the assistant superintendent of business for the Hewlett-Woodmere district, the Board of Education and the administration have faced increased challenges in assembling a budget that includes the most valued programs and services as a result of the tax levy cap, which was enacted in 2011.

The legislation established a cap of approximately 2 percent on the increase in the tax levy — the amount of money districts must collect in taxes to meet expenses — which varies from district to district according to a state formula. A budget with a tax levy increase at or below the cap will need only a simple majority to pass in May’s public vote, while a spending plan with a proposed tax levy increase that exceeds the cap must be approved by a super-majority — at least 60 percent of voters.

“Like all facets of government, school districts have faced increased fiscal challenges throughout the course of the recession,” Weber said. “Multi-year fiscal planning, including the prudent use of reserves, has allowed us to preserve the programs and services that define Hewlett-Woodmere. However, utilizing reserves is not a long-term solution. The Board of Education and District Leadership Team will work diligently to develop a budget to present to the community that will allow us to continue our commitment to our shared vision and mission.”

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